Berlin Calling: What you need to know ahead of the season finale six-race competition?
WHERE WILL THE RACING TAKE PLACE?
First off, the season will conclude on the Berlin Tempelhof Airport, and the competition will be divided into three double-headers, each of the double-headers happening on the different circuit configuration, which will really spice up the way the teams approach each of them. These races will take place on 5th and 6th, 8th and 9th, and 12th and 13th of August. Six races in nine days surely is a unique challenge in itself, so we will surely highly competitive and unpredictable racing.
Formula E and the FIA have been working in close consultation with teams and local authorities to define a robust plan to conclude the championship in a safe manner. To mitigate risk, Formula E is implementing strict safety measures including racing behind closed doors with only essential staff and competitors travelling to the event.
As per German government guidelines, there will be a maximum number of 1,000 people on site at any given time, including local suppliers and medical crews with each Formula E team bringing 20 staff. All other operations will be carried out remotely.
Key health and safety protocol include mandatory Covid 19 testing prior to the races, as well as on-site screening every day upon arrival at the track. Formula E will also actively enforce the use of face masks, social distancing and limit movement across workspaces with clearly defined zones for different event populations.
WHO RULED THE VIRTUAL RACING PERIOD?
As we reported back in April, Formula E launched its own sim racing competition in association with UNICEF, and the best. Sim racing took center stage in the months of the pandemic and the e-sports scene presented great racing and fantastic events.
In the Formula E ring, the driver that got the best results was the former Formula 1 star, Stoffel Vandoorne. The Belgian racer finished second in the final of the sim racing series and won the overall title with a 24 point advantage. Together with his team mate Nick de Vries, they scored the most points for their team Mercedes-Benz EQ, ahead of Nissan e.dams and Mahindra.
For Stoffel, the key to winning the sim racing title was consistency - he never finished lower than 5th place. This is what the Mercedes driver had to say:
"It's a really nice feeling to win. It’s been eight long weeks and it was an intense final weekend. I can’t believe it’s been so long since we had the first race, it really flew by. A lot of good moments and great races have happened and we managed to keep everything clean all the time. Consistency has been the key to winning. The championship got more difficult as time went on and as the other drivers got up to speed and into the mix."
THE ABT INCIDENT & DRIVER LINE-UP SHUFFLE
During the ABB Formula E Race at Home Challenge, Audi driver Daniel Abt didn't participate in the Berlin round and had the professional sim racer take part instead of him, which sparked a lot of controversies, ending in Audi suspending Abt from their Formula E team.
As racing, especially when manufacturers are involved is a team sport, drivers should represent their team in best possible way. If it was "just" a racing event, I wouldn't look at the Abt incident as if it was something worth so much controversy, but, it was an event that was organized in collaboration with UNICEF, and to do something similar to what Daniel did was, at least in my eyes, not a good look for him, his team, Audi and Formula E as a whole.
The replacement was announced pretty soon, and it was an interesting one. Rene Rast (in the image above), double and current DTM Champion will partner Lucas di Grassi, and be the third Audi DTM driver to do Formula E in parallel to DTM - Robin Frijns and Nico Muller are already there, and all of them will have the most packed August calendar out of all racing drivers, since they will drive 10 races in the span of just more than two weeks.
Rast already has some Formula E experience - he replaced Antonio Felix Da Costa at Berlin in 2016 - then Formula E was racing in Gen1 cars, but he had an opportunity to test the Gen2 car at Lausitzring in the beginning of July. From what he has shown in DTM, and also from what I could gather from talking to him at Red Bull Ring in 2018, he knows what he is doing, has his eyes firmly set on his goal and enjoys driving racing cars very much. This is what he had to say about the upcoming Formula E finale:
"I think it’s a good time for a newcomer to jump in. There’s never been so many races in such a short space of time so it’s just about taking advantage of that and learning. It means I can gain a lot of experience very quickly."
With Pascal Wehrlein parting ways with Mahindra, Alex Lynn will be his replacement. Lynn has been racing in Formula E for the last two seasons - first with Envision Virgin Racing in 2017/2018 and later with Jaguar during 2018/2019 season. Seems that he is a safe pick for teams that lose a driver...
Since Ma Qinghua couldn't come and participate in Berlin finale, the NIO team needed a driver, and they found one in Daniel Abt. The German will be back in the Formula E car to finish the season, at the racetrack where he won back in 2018, with also being on pole and achieving fastest lap of the race. If NIO can deliver a good car, and if the conditions go in Abt's favor he could surprise some people, and possibly score first points for his new team.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
When looking at the standings, DS Techeetah driver, Antonio Felix da Costa has 11 point advantage ahead of Jaguar's Mitch Evans and it will be really interesting to see how the title fight will go down in Berlin. The BMW drivers are also in contention, in third and fourth in the championship.
Sam Bird announced he will drive for Jaguar next season, and will share his garage with Evans, and with Jaguar's current form, that will be a team that cannot be underestimated. Envision Virgin have signed Nick Cassidy who will drive their car next year in place of Bird. Super Formula Champion, Cassidy was one of the drivers who were present at the rookie test in Marrakech in March, and the Kiwi posted the new lap record at the circuit during the test. He and Robin Frijns will also be a strong line-up for next year.
With so many things changing and just the fact that we will see six races in nine day on three different circuit configurations really puts a smile on my face and I can't wait to see how everything will pan out. Berlin Calling, we are ready....